A fine tribute to the local color of Sugar Hill, who have made America a better and more interesting country for almost a...

SUGAR HILL

HARLEM'S HISTORIC NEIGHBORHOOD

Weatherford’s poetic, swinging textual rhythms meet Christie’s artistic razzmatazz to create one hot picture book.

A historic and cultural tour of Harlem’s famous neighborhood, the book drops names aplenty. Miles Davis, Lena Horne, Zora Neale Hurston, Thurgood Marshall and W.E.B. Du Bois, among others, all lived and thrived in this center of African-American life and art—a place that has also always nurtured black children into productive lives through the arts, literature, and the love and attention of caring adults. Sparsely detailed but action-packed, Christie’s illustrations echo the lives of the star-studded cast of characters. Faith Ringgold’s page, for instance, features the Brooklyn Bridge and a young girl who could just as easily be Cassie from Ringgold’s Tar Beach (1991) as the young Ringgold herself. The backmatter offers biographical blurbs that emphasize the longitudinal impact this neighborhood has had on Harlem and on the nation; birthdates begin in 1868 (Du Bois) and end in the present with those who are still producing art today (Sonny Rollins, the “Saxophone Colossus,” and Ringgold, both 82 years old at the time of this review).

A fine tribute to the local color of Sugar Hill, who have made America a better and more interesting country for almost a century. (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7650-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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A ho-hum outing next to James Rumford’s first-class Traveling Man (2001).

THE AMAZING TRAVELS OF IBN BATTUTA

A first-person précis of the journeys taken by the Muslim world’s greatest traveler.

Originally published in Arabic, Sharafeddine’s recast tale takes the 14th-century Ibn Battuta on a long, looping course from his home in Tangier to India, then on to China and back for visits to Grenada and Mali. Aside from the occasional storm or hyena attack, however, “his” narrative is a wearying recitation of place names hooked to vague details—“Cairo impressed me with its mosques and hospitals”—and repeated mentions of visits to local “theologians and legal scholars.” Furthermore, dates in the narrative are taken from the Christian calendar only, and the prose is sometimes inexpertly phrased: “I hired a camel to continue my journey”; “After ten years, he made me the ambassador of India in China.” The illustrations, done in a style reminiscent of Persian miniatures, feature large-eyed figures in period dress and evocative glimpses of grand architecture. These scenes are, however, integrated into maps that are so stylized that it’s seldom possible to get a clear picture of where the lands and cities are. The abrupt ending leaves readers who want to know more about Ibn Battuta to their own devices.

A ho-hum outing next to James Rumford’s first-class Traveling Man (2001). (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55498-480-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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